Monday, April 27, 2009

Economy: Abq Journal 4/26 & 27

The Albuquerque Journal ran stories Sunday and yesterday about the New Mexico economy. The Sunday story, the second lead, was headlined, "State Is Showing Signs of Recovery." That, folks, is simply not true.
The subhead was, "Hints of Activity Ease Pain of Recession." This is true, but meaningless. One joy of our economy is that positive things are always happening. A few positive things are happening in Albuquerque and around the state.
The two stories are based on "Economy Watch," a report prepared quarterly for the Journal by the Bureau of Business and Economic Research at the University of New Mexico. The quarterly nature of the report means the Journal stories base on data from the fourth quarter of 2008.
In the stories, one happy number was real. Albuquerque Economic Development is setting records for the number of companies visiting metro Albuquerque. However, new jobs from the firms are a year away, at best, and maybe two years. It remains marvelous that AED continues to do what AED does so well.
In the meantime, though, the trend is what hasn't changed. The trend showed 12,000 wage jobs lost statewide from February 2008 through February 2009. For March, the year over year loss was 16,400. For the week of April 11, New Mexicans filed 2,200 new claims for unemployment compensation. The figure for a year ago was 1,200.
This will take a while to change, if only because the numbers are large. In February, there were 831,000 wage jobs across the state with 388,000 in Albuquerque.
A lovely sentence illustrates the thin nature of the straws the reports grasp. "Lost jobs are being replaced by an emerging alternative energy manufacturing industry, film production and several new companies."
This might be true if it said, "A few lost jobs are being replaced..." Further, the new jobs aren't the ones that have been lost. While the hundred or so new jobs from Reelx Network are nice, in fact the film jobs, mostly, com and go and the growth has eased.

Sunday, April 26, 2009

Movie Subsidy More Coming

Except the "more" is coming from Texas. Here is the beginning of a story from today's El Paso Times. "Gov. Rick Perry signs Texas law to lure moviemakers
By Kelley Shannon / Associated Press Posted: 04/24/2009 12:00:00 AM MDT
AUSTIN -- Surrounded by cheering film industry workers, Gov. Rick Perry signed legislation Thursday aimed at helping Texas lure more movies and television shows to the state.
"Oh, you're going to be busy," Perry told the crowd. "We're going to move Texas to the top of the credits."
The new law took effect immediately because it passed by large margins in the House and Senate."
Also today, Las Cruces Sun-News Managing Editor Walt Rubel compares the two studies done on New Mexico's movie subsidy. The results were quite different, reflecting quite different methods and quite different sponsors. (Duh!) "These guys aren't even in the same ballpark," Rubel says. He calls for accountability in New Mexico's tax incentives.

Thursday, April 23, 2009

Jobs: March, the Rest of the Story

The 1.9% March 2008 to March 2009 job loss is New Mexico's worst year-over-year performance since 1954, reports the Department of Workforce Services.
DWS says, "Only two of the state’s 13 industries posted any job growth since last year, while the eleven others reported employment declines. Most of the gains came from the health care component of the educational & health services industry, which was up 4,400 jobs on the year. Government jobs also continued to grow, increasing by 2,000. Most of the new government jobs are at the local level, many at tribally owned casinos."
Wow, the growth is in healthcare, tribal casinos, which are part of local government, and other government.
Albuquerque: Over the past year, payroll employment dropped 2%, or 7,700 jobs. Metro Albuquerque has lost jobs for six consecutive months, losing jobs at a slightly faster rate than the state. Only three of the 12 major industry divisions have added jobs since last March.
Over the year, Santa Fe lost 1,100 jobs, a 1.7% drop.
With no job growth, but no loss either, Las Cruces had the best job performance of the states three larger metros. Monthly figures are not reported for Farmington, our smallest metro area.

Sunday, April 19, 2009

Jobs: March Unemployment

New Mexico's unemployment jumped again in March and employment dropped. No surprise either place.
The unemployment increase was half a percentage point—to 5.9% from 5.4% in February, a change considered "statistically significant" by the federal Bureau of Labor Statistics, which compiles the numbers. New Mexico was one of 18 states with a statistically significant jump in unemployment rate.
On a seasonally adjusted basis, New Mexico's labor force dropped 400 between March 2008 (955,000) and March 2009 (954,600). The number of unemployed went from 36,800 to 51,600 during the period. That means the number employed, as statistically defined, dropped from 918,200 in March 2008 to 903,000 in March 2009. With the seasonal adjustment, New Mexico's labor force dropped 2,400 and unemployment increased 21,200.
The number of New Mexicans on non-farm payrolls went from a seasonally adjusted 848,200 to 838,700 during the March to March year. Construction employment in the state dropped by more than 7,000. Manufacturing lost 2,300 jobs.
Professional and business services lost "only" 900 jobs, from 107,800 in March 2008 to 106,900 in March 2009. This sector is especially important to New Mexico because of its size and because it contains many of the state's science and research organizations.

Friday, April 17, 2009

Hispanic Cultural Center: The Gallery

We went to the "Meso-Americhanics (Maneuvering Mestizaje)" exhibit at the gallery of the National Hispanic Cultural Center last Sunday. We arrived at the 10 a.m. opening time. Only one semi-sleeping homeless man occupied the covered walk to the main center that contains the gallery. When it opened, my sense was that the center was a guilt-assuaging exercise, financed by major corporations, that really was a question looking for an answer. The gallery seems to be part of the answer. Jamex and Einar de la Torre are the artists. They live and work both in California and Baja California. Blown glass is their main vehicle, to which they add whatever is handy with thrift stores as a common resource . It's a rich mix and worth seeing. The results are described as "border baroque" in a sub-head on the card summarizing the exhibit.
Words, really, are the only problem with the show. "Border baroque," together, offer a general concept. The main title does not. "Americhanics," what's that? A good many of the item descriptions seems to have been written in the deconstructionist English departments of some Ivy League university. There are strings of really long words. But meaning? None to me.
The center's website is

Wednesday, April 1, 2009

Politics: Congress Pays Bonuses, Wilson, Udall, Too

It's one of those gotcha stories journalists love in the dark recesses holding their sense of humor.
Today's Wall Street Journal has a story on page A5 headlined, "Congress Thinks Bonuses Are Fine—for Its Own Employees." Tucked into the 19th inch of the 25 inch the story (and thereby verifying my truism that the good stuff is at the bottom of the story) was this item, "
"A handful lawmakers who retired handed out a total of $283,000 in bonuses. After Republican Heather Wilson gave up her New Mexico seat in the House to run unsuccessfully for the Senate, she gave 13 aides bonuses as high as $3,000. 'My practice over ten years in Congress was to give bonuses at the end of the year,' she said."
Tom Udall, now Senator, played a more complex game.
The story says, "Last fall, Democratic Rep Tom Udall left the house to run for New Mexico's Senate seat. Several members of his House staff took leaves from their government jobs to work for his campaign. When Mr. Udall won the race and returned to Washington, his office budget had accrued a large surplus. He decided to spend the surplus funds by increasing salaries for nearly his entire staff for a short time. Disbursement forms show that in late December, Mr. Udall temporarily increased salaries for 19 of his 22 employees at an annualized rate of $163,796. Among those who earned the higher pay were staff assistants, a scheduler, an executive assistant, and a part-time employee. Spokeswoman Marissa Padilla said Mr. Udall traditionally 'adjusts salaries at the end of the year based on seniority, merit and unused leave' when his office has a surplus."
This congressional bonus thing seems cultural. Wilson is said to be considering running for governor. We should ask if she plans to bring the D.C. culture to state government where it would seem to fit nicely. For Udall, at least, what happens in D.C., stays in D.C.